Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Positively 8th Street

Last night, watching the new PBS documentary on Emma Goldman, I was happy to see my old colleague, poet-social commentator Andre Codrescu, from my days, in the '60s and '70s, at New York's rightfully legendary Eighth Street Bookshop. I devoted a chapter to working at the literary emporium in my memoir Early Plastic .

Andre was one of a number of employees at the place who went on to claim a place in the public eye. In addition to Andre, others included Amiri Baraka, writer (and present day blogist extraordinaire) Jan Herman , notorious "draft dodger" David Mitchell; and its regular clientele included Susan Sontag, Allen Ginsberg, Irving Howe, Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof, the curmudgeonly Jospeh Campbell, William Steig, Edward Albee, Lenny Bruce, et al. Everytime you turned around found you rubbing literary-artistic stardust out of your eyes. The man who sold us our stationary was Alger Hiss (!), our janitor, for a time, was Peter Orlovsky and. . .well, you get the picture. A pretty heady enviornment for a twenty-something, such as myself, in the 1960s.

Seeing Andre talking about Emma Goldman on TV, put me in mind of an incident that happened late one night at Eighth Street. I included it in Early Plastic , as follows:

"This is Shelley Winters, 225 Riverside Drive," the party on the other end of the line said. "Perhaps you recognize the voice." Who wouldn't? The call came in at Eighth Street just before midnight closing time. Winters wanted to know if we had any books on Emma Goldman. We did; practically an entire section devoted to the legendary feminist/Communist/anarchist. I would have sworn that pit bull Winters had not only heard of Emma Goldman, but somewhere in the heart of her Riverside Drive co-op had a shrine dedicated to her. But the former Shirley Schrift continued: "Do you know who this Goldman dame is? I'm auditioning to play her in a movie, but I've never heard of her." That night the store stayed open past its usual closing time, just long enough for her driver to arrive and pick up "one of everything." I never did find out whether Winters got around to playing "Red Emma."

I was employed on and off at Eighth Street for more than ten years. It was the happiest time of my life. Fighting a bad case of insomnia last night, I wanted to see how many names I could recall (my way of counting sheep) of the people who worked there. It turns out that my long term memory is even more killer than I thought it was. In addition to the above, here's a partial "honor roll": Bruce Marcus, Don Kasha, Gary Barton, Conrad Brenner, Rod Rademacher, Sylvester Pollett, Chuck Campbell, Ron Horning, Mark Brasz, Joe Johnson, Charles Dudley, Joseph Bitowf, Richard Kolmar, Paul Barnes, Stephen Hillary Clark, Roy Tedoff, Jose Soltero, A.B. Spellman, Harry Lewis, Ken Weaver, M.G. Stephens, Tom Farley, Paul Glushanok, Martin Last, Ron Najman, Marvin Ellenbogen. . .a red haired guy whose first name was Roger, and a demented chap in the paperback department by the name of Lew, who was so scary, they were afraid (or perhaps even too compassionate) to fire him. "They" being the unforgettable and sui generis (and totally unalike) Wilentz brothers, Ted and Eli, who owned Eighth Street.

Notice that the list includes the names of no females. I can only remember three women who worked at the place in all of those years. There may have been one or two others. I seem to recall a "Mimi." Looking back, I don't think any of us ever thought that it was all that odd, illegal, unfair, not to mention sexist. Just goes to show how times have changed.

note: My PC is in the shop (see below). TFN blog entries fewer and farther between.

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Sunday, March 27, 2005

%#@%*^#@

I am writing this from a Kinko's somewhere in the wilds of Mallville, USA

Due to a major meltdown of my pc, I probably won't be posting much here in the next week or so. Four hours on the phone to Windows' Yogi in India semed to have solved the problem at first, but after hanging up, when I restarted pc, all went even more haywire.

The error messge I NOW get on my own pc reads as follows: "a required DLL file was not found, c:\windows\system\wapi.dll was not found"; then, "error loading exe. you must reinstall windows." As far as I am aware, reloading Windows would wipe entire everything, so.....

I will be taking Mr. PC to the shop (comp usa?) within the next few days, meanwhile, if anyone has any thoughts regarding a solution, It would be nice to hear from you at cllr1@comcast.net.

Best,

Bill Reed

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Queen Leer

Yesterday, I burned a CD of 78 rpm recordings by the long-ago diseur and musician Dwight Fiske for the son of a late, lamented comedy genius. He'd told my good friend and constant traveling companion of the last 35 years, David Ehrenstein---they are journalists and colleagues at an L.A. newspaper---that his dad had recommended Fiske highly, and yet he had never been able to find any recordings by him. I wanted to write a note to accompany the CD that would place Fiske into socio-cultural perspective. I did so, and by the time I finished, I realized that I had also written my blog entry for today (as my grandmother used to say, re: not wasting anything: "Everything but the oink."). Here's what I wrote to him:

Inasmuch as Dwight Fiske recorded in excess of a hundred sides circa 1935-'45, one would think there would be something available. Yet he is one of those once-famous public figures, like authors James Branch Cabell and Carl Van Vechten, who have simply fallen through the cracks of cultural history, rarely, if ever, to be heard from again.

Some of the tracks on the CD I made are not listed in a brief bio of Fiske and (seemingly) exhaustive discography---with titles like: "Two Horses and a Debutante," "Africa Whispers," "Coney Island Honeymoon," "Puss in the Corner," "Senorita Margarita Del Campo---to be found here. Which leads me to wonder just how much more Fiske actually recorded.

The rubric under which these risque releases were presented to the American record buying public was "Party Records." Presumably, they were sold----"Psssst--- under the counter. One friend of Fiske's recalled:

"In that era [the 1930s], a young lady had not experienced living if she had not seen Dwight Fiske. At every party you went to, you had to hear one of his records."

A fair amount of Fiske's material was written by the wonderful novelist (and friend of Fiske's) Dawn Powell. Fiske even appears as a character in one of her novels. . . as a woman. According to urban legend, he was somewhat miffed at his involuntary "sex change" and complained to Powell, "You've turned me into a woman!" To which Powell reportedly replied, "It isn't the first time that's happened and it won't be the last."

An explique du texte reveals that an awful lot of Fiske's material related to the phenomenon of. . . size, as in "size queen." Apparently he went against the tide of latter-day sentiment and felt that penile dimension decidedly DID matter.

In his book Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of Cabaret, James Gavin writes:

"Fiske's stories told of such characters as Pomona the Deer, a charming doe out to make an honest buck; Queen Isabella, whose frustrations grew unbearable during Columbus's long absences ("She didn't give a damn whether the earth was flat or round!"); and Salome, so driven with desire for John the Baptist that she performed the dance of her life in order to seduce him. "Which only goes to prove," declared Fiske, "that if you want something long enough. . .and you want it hard enough. . .you're bound to get it in the end [emphases Fiske's].

Many of Fiske's tales ---all were delivered unsung, singspiel-fashion---were published in his collections Without Music in 1933 and Why Should Penguins Fly? in 1934.

The former had a foreword by Robert Benchley who writes of Fiske as "one of our most literate writers of humorous prose" whose humor "is based on characterization and a choice of words" and "a skilful utilization of emphasis."

Admittedly, Fiske's art has not---to put it mildly---aged well, and it is hard to believe that anything so tame could have at one time been considered so nudgenudgewinkwink. But his self-accompanied (piano) monologues do still manage to possess a certain charm and interest, if for no other reason than his "literate" (per Benchley) way with words. For a sample of Dwight Fiske, click here (link removed)

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Friday, March 25, 2005

Cat blog Friday #8

Kuro and Ming Toy Posted by Hello


Kuro is David Ehrenstein's (and my) cat, Kuro. (Did you know, btw, that the French have no word for "pet"?) Kuro is seen here in 2005 with Ming Toy, whom David named after. . . "I don't remember. I was three. It was a name I heard somewhere." Fairly precocious for a three-year-old back in 1950, and I am happy to report that David hasn't changed much since then.

David and Ming Toy are now both settling gracefully into. . .un certaine age. They've been through a lot together. Like the time when David, with his parents, visited San Francisco on vacation and he forgot Ming Toy back at the hotel (the Fairmont, of course). The oversight wasn't noticed, however, until they were prrrractically at the Continetal Divide on their auto journey back to Queens, New York. At which point, they had to turn around and drive all the way back to S.F. to retrieve Ming. David learned his lesson and never forgot Ming Toy again; and in the immortal words of Carol Burnett's Mildred Fierce: "Kids! They sure keep ya hoppin'!" So do cats.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Kenzo Tange

Fuji-Sankei Headquarters, Tokyo Posted by Hello


The great Japanese architect Kenzo Tange died Tuesday in Tokyo at age 91. Several days of my last trip to that city, in April, were spent taking a tour of Tange's Tokyo. More than any other living architect I can think of, Tange embodied that which critic Geoffrey Scott, in his famous 1914 book The Architecture of Humanism, deemed to be the three most important criteria of the art of building, i.e. firmness, commodity and delight. That is to say, well-built, spacious, and playful.

Even though Scott, who died in 1929, preceded most of what we think of as "modern architecture," I can't help but think he would have been pleased by much of Tange's work, especially his 1991 Fuji Broadcasting headquarters on the Island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay. The first time I laid eyes on it, in 2001, it took my breath away. There is no way that two-dimensional, still photographs can do full justice to it, nevertheless here is one the many details I have taken of the 25-story structure, whose playful proportions are meant to replicate those of a Hi-Def TV screen. Some other photos of the Fuji headquarters and more of Tange's works can be seen here. As they say. . .a big loss.

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Bobby Short est morte

One of my best friends is an odd mixture of sophistication and naivete. He also happens to be African-American and gay. A fan of Short's, not too many years ago he went to a concert of Bobby's here in L.A. (the city where the future comes to die) and was shocked, Shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, to discover that the entire audience consisted of almost nothing but gay black men. Theretofore, he had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever that Short was a sistah. Something that hasn't been pointed out much in the mainstream press the past few days. No reason it should, by the way. But if you want the real dish --- per usual --- you have to come on over to Blogville, USA.

If for no other reason, Bobby Short will be remembered for singing the immortal lines to the title tune of Merchant-Ivory's Savages: "They call us savages because we dare to love. . .."

A propos of nothing in particular, I just wrote the following e-mail to a friend:

I have this theory that nearly ALL guys named Scott are gay. It's the new "Bruce." Which reminds me of something that I said one time to my good friend and constant traveling companion of the past thirty-five years, David Ehrenstein.

ME: Oh, there's this guy I know by the name of Scott, and he has great taste in singers, i.e. Betty Carter, Sinatra, Abbey Lincoln, et al. But the ringer is that his favorite is Liza Minnelli. He's married with a bunch of kids. And he's straight. But he just went to see Liza three nights running at the Palace.

DAVID: Well, he might have been straight before, but he's not anymore. (Bud-a-bing!)

Shortly after that, Scott DID, in fact, come out ---quaint phrase from the before time. I rest my case.

Later, I learned that, at one time, Scott been a professional ice skater, nearly all of whom, I'm sure you must know by now, are gay. Must have something to do with the vibrations from the skate blades constantly stimulating their, um, nether regions to the point where they lose all powers of binary sexual (not to mention musical) discrimination.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

What's this cat's story?. . . continued.

Posted by Hello


After giving my latest CD purchase, 405 South by jazz pianist John Wood, a couple of close listenings, I set about googling to see if I could learn anything more about him than was in the liner notes for the disc.

What I quickly discovered on the net is that John Wood IS famous, well sort of. But for reasons having nothing to do with his musical artistry. Click here for a story about him in a recent issue of the L.A. Weekly. There, one learns that Wood has become locally known for standing outside of L.A.s largest record store, Amoeba, and selling "Drum Machines Have No Soul" bumper stickers. I'd spotted them around town the past few months, not just on cars, but on walls, drum kits and wondered about it. Perhaps the best I'd seen since "Warning: I Brake for Hallucinations" and "Gato Barbieri Go Home."

But although one gets thousands of hits on Google for John Wood and his bumper sticker, there is precious little else about him---next to nil about the music---on the net.

The writer of the "Weekly" piece portrays him as a more-or-less, old and embittered hipster dufus, and not at all as the dazzling and inventive jazz pianist that he is. Wood is definitely on a worthwhile mission from the gods of music, but apparently almost all who come in contact with Wood in front of Amoeba regard him as some kind of flake.

Through my friend John Gilbert I have been able to gain some additional info about John Wood from a widely-respected Southern California jazz musician. Here's what he wrote:

"John Wood rebelled and became a sensitive jazz pianist, and a good one. He is also a writer for Ring Magazine (he is a boxing authority). He did a bunch of great albums on his own. Always used the best guys including Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw. He has a beautiful Bill Evans type touch, writes great melodic tunes, and includes jazz standards. He has sold 14,000 "Drum Machines Have No Soul" bumper stickers. The man is on a mission, what can I say?"

Very little question, based on the evidence of 405 South, that Wood has devoted his artistic life to the living, breathing PULSE of music. In other words, feh! on the dread Wurlitzer Sideman and every other artificial timekeeping device that's followed in its wake.

I have just learned that Wood will soon be making a rare appearance at a local L.A. jazz club. News of it will be posted here, and I'll be sure to be there with bells one and my "DMHNS" bumper sticker proudly slapped across my forehead.

Note: 405 South is still available from amazon.com.

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Annals of thrift shop - cyberspace interface

I could lie and say that I bought the album 405 South * by jazz pianist John Wood at L.A.'s Amoeba, or Tower, or Aron's Records, but the fact is I am addicted to prowling thrift shops for CDs, LPs and books. Have been for as long almost as long as I am able to remember, and can, in fact, supply you with a list as long as my arm of extraordinary finds I've made whilst spelunking Goody's (Goodwill) and Sally's (Salvation Army), etc. But that is best saved for some other warm and cozy night around the camp fire.

I snagged 405 South last Saturday at one of my neighborhood standbys---the one cater-cornered from Trader Joe's in Culver City, CA. Don't even know the name of the place, but I seldom walk out without buying something. Good karma there. As always, I wondered about the backstory as to how the item made it's way there. Somebody die? An unwanted (re) gift? One time I even found a CD there that I had produced. Gakkkk! I bought (rescued) it.

I'd never even heard of Wood or his 1989 album prior to the day before yesterday. And it wasn't the plain wrap packaging that caught my eye. Rather, it was the extraordinary lineup of sidemen accompanying him. The bassists on various tracks include the "A" list likes of Jeff Littleton, Leroy Vinnegar, and the late (and legendary) Eric Von Essen, and the drummers include Billy Higgins (alas, also "late") and Joe LaBarbera. Major league flautist Ray Pizzi is also heard on two tracks, including Wood's original "One for a Friend." The remainder of the repertoire is a mix of half originals, half standards, "Autumn Leaves," "Secret Love, etc." Arguably, there's seldom been a more impressive gathering of rhythm section players on a single CD, even by a musician of far greater renown, subjectively speaking, than John Wood.

Two other things captured my attention as I pored over CD ** in the thrift shop. One is that the liner notes were written by the high-powered critic and social commentator Nat Hentoff. Mind you, I don't have a great deal of respect for the man (see my previous blog entry about Hentoff). But his disquisitions are more often found on CDs by musicians of far greater stature, and not ones that will eventually end up, alas, in a landfill off the Jersey coast.

Also catching my eye was that, according to Hentoff, John Wood is the son of Dot Records founder Randy Wood. For those of you not up on record label lore, circa 1950s - 1970s Dot was the home of such square music makers as Lawrence Welk, Billy Vaughn, and Pat Boone. In other words, not exactly the kind of sounds as purveyed by Randy Wood's progeny on his 405 South. In fact, NOT AT ALL like. . ..

But to give Wood, Senior his due---Welk and Boone et al notwithstanding---he was one of the radio sponsors of the all-night rhythm and blues radio station, WLAC.

Late at night in the mid-1950s found many of us in my hometown in West Virginia listening not to local radio stations, still continuing to pump out our parents' retrograde faves like "April in Portugal" and "Lisbon Antigua", but to the 50,000 watt clear channel station out of Nashville, WLAC, featuring deejays Gene Nobles and John R. Enacted after hours and away from parental scrutiny, auditing WLAC was so clandestine and forbidden, that it operated like a vicarious trial run for sex---something that few teens in the 50s had partaken. Not in my set, anyway. In between their pitches for mail order rhythm and blues packages from Randy's Record Shop in Gallatin, Tennessee and salacious paeans to the lubricating properties of White Rose Petroleum Jelly, this powerhouse outlet blanketed almost the entire country with the real deal in black music, instead of the pale white simulacrum coming to be known as rock and roll. Randy's was owned by Randy Wood, also the proprietor. of the Dot record label whose number one star was Caucasian r 'n' b arriviste Pat Boone. But I can never recall the WLA C deejays ever playing any of-the inauthentic "cover versions" of black artists, e.g. "Tutti Fruitti," "Long Tall Sally," etc. of White Buck (!) Kid, Pat Boone. When the secret history of rock and roll is writ large, it will probably be made apparent that it wasn't really Dick Clark who turned on teenage America to black music, but instead, this seldom acknowledged radio phenomenon out of the heartland of America ---WLAC. Brought to you, in part, by. . .RANDY'S RECORD SHOP.

And Dot was not certainly not incapable of some fine releases. Three that spring to mind are a terrific Slim Gaillard album, a quite fine one-off jazz vocal effort by tennis great Althea Gibson, and a five-star album by jazz vibist-pianist Eddie Costa, plus a number of other worthy jazz and jazz vocal albums. Still, it is awfully hard to erase the memory of a - one - and - a -two, and the oleagenous arrangements of Billy Vaughn that were a mainstay of many Dot releases.

My logic being "How bad can it be?," I sprang for 405 South, minus my ten percent, ummmm, senior discount = $1.80 plus tax, brought it home and popped it in the player. And right out of the starting gate I was knocked out by Wood's playing! Doesn't get much better. Immediately evident was the influence of Bill Evans. But that's nothing new. What jazz pianist worth his salt of the past several decades hasn't been touched to a degree by Evans' genius? Also methinks I detect just a soupcon of Ahmad Jamal. Odd but heady mix, Evans and Jamal.

When it comes to pere and fils Randy and John Wood, the (musical) apple has, seemingly, seldom fallen farther from the tree. Making musical reparations for the old man? In the immortal words of Alice, it was just getting curiouser and curiouser . Just what, exactly, is this cat's story? To be continued. . .

* The title of Wood's CD comes from a heavily traveled SoCal freeway famed for being even slower than a post-midnight Shirley Horn ballad.

** 405 South is release number one on the fine fine super fine L.A.P. Records label.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Takamatsu, Japan 2000

Posted by Hello


In my previous cat blog post, I suggested that I would like to close my eyes and when I opened them, find myself plunked down in the middle of Japan. This photo was snapped in Takamatsu, Japan during my first trip to that country in 2000. I've since been there three more times. The rapid periodicity of my return visits should give you some idea of how taken I am by the place.

That's a reflection of me leaning over a pond from a small bridge. Right after I snapped the shutter, the inhabitants leaped so high out of the water---thinking I was about to feed them---and were so large that I jumped back and landed on my ass.

Takamatsu, on the island of Shikoku, prides itself on, among other things, being the home of the longest indoor arcade on the planet. And, indeed, stand at one end and the other appears to recede into infinity. Which reminds me of one of the many reasons I so fell in love with Japan, i.e., the country's penchant for outsize indoor spaces. The very new and modern train station at Hiroshima, for example, must hold some kind of record for interior spaciousness. A great architectural landmark in a nation full of them. (Don't get me started on Japanese architect Kenzo Tange.)

Another phenomenon that captured my attention in that country is the way that older women in their '70s and '80s dress. They do it with so much taste and stylishness that it strikes me as almost 180 degrees away from how their opposite numbers of d'un certain age in the U.S. outfit themselves (or rather don't bother to) when they go out in public. (No pedal pushers and curlers for Mama San.) Must have to do with the overall respect and veneration the Japanese possess for the more senior of its citizens, which in turn makes for a fairly advanced degree of personal pride and dignity in the older set.

In general, it must be the most gerontophilic nation on earth. Still hard for me to grasp as a rather long in the tooth but still seriously committed homo, that in Japan there is nothing all that unusual about a man half my age flirting with me. I am spoken for---by someone young enough to be my son in some overly fertile, newly emerging nation state---still, it is a nice feeling. I love Japan!

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Moms Dearest

Jackie "Moms" Mabley Posted by Hello

Today is the birthday of the great comedienne Jackie "Moms" Mabley. I wonder if there isn't a case for her being not just the first African-American female standup comic, but, extra-racially, the first of the breed ever. After scuffling on the black chittlin' vaudeville circuit for a couple of decades beginning in the 1920s, by the time the '50s rolled around, Moms had become a major draw at famous black venues like the Apollo in New York and the Howard Theater in DC.

Shambling on stage, behatted, clad in thrift shop attire, and devoid of her dentures, Moms had the audience won over before she even opened her mouth. Then when she spoke, the sound that came out resembled nothing so much as a foghorn in heat. Like a slightly more butch Lionel Stander.

Here's a typical Moms riff; the setup up is a white man sentenced to be hung for murder.

"I don't want to be hung. I don't want to be hung," he moans.

"They gonna hang you, so why don't you face it like a man," Moms admonishes him.

To which the white man replies:

"That's easy for you to say, you're used to it."

Naturally, her mostly all-black audience goes completely bananas. As rough as any bit that Lenny Bruce ever spoke, but because of her warm and fuzzy protective coloration (so to speak) Moms got away with just as much if not more than Dirty Lenny.

Mabley eventually become a crossover star, appearing on TV variety shows like the Smothers Brothers, scored a top forty singles hit in 1969, and saw thirteen of her comedy albums end up on Billboard magazine charts. She was even well enough known to have been the subject of a Second City TV comedy sketch, "Moms Dearest," a sendup of Mommie Dearest. For a while, Whoopee Goldberg was toying with the idea of doing a one-woman show based on Moms' material. She might have even performed it a few times, but as I seem to recall, the project went into turnaround, not to mention litigation limbo.

I loved one saying of Mabley's so much that I used it as the prefatory quote for my book Hot from Harlem: Profiles in Classic African-American Entertainment: "You don't get started in show business. . .you just start." A subtle Jesuitical distinction elusive to but a few. She died in 1975 at age 81.

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Cat Blog Friday #7

Posted by Hello


Here is Kuro with the Japanese good luck charm, maneki neko, i.e. maneki = inviting, neko = cat. Traditionally, the kitty with its left paw raised brings in business, and ones with the right paw beckoning bring in money. You could drop me down anywhere in urban Japan with my eyes closed and when I opened them and looked around I would espy some variant of a maneko neko. They are everywhere. Come to think of it, why don't you just do that, i.e. drop me down in Japan. . .anywhere.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

This Just In: LITTLE BEAVER, FREE AT LAST

Bonnie Lee Bakley was not the first time Robert Blake ALLEGEDLY killed. After completing production on the film Second-Hand Hearts, originally saddled with the hopeless title Hamster of Happiness, Blake went on the Johnny Carson Show for almost a year, on a regular basis while the film was in its "protracted" can, and joked about how awful it was (unheard of in the biz). A running gag. In other words, Blake KILLED it.

"Hearts," begun in '79 but not released until '81, was held up for so long not because it was a bad film per se, but due to the fact that the company that made it was being sold. This is a film that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been available on vhs, laser, dvd, or any media as yet to be determined in the known universe. So folks'll just have to take my word for it that this is a little jewel of a film. Besides, any movie with Barbara Harris, Blake's co-star in the film, can't be all bad. Does anyone else remember her singing "Painting the Clouds With Sunshine" in "Who is Harry Kellerman and etc."? Be still my heart! Harris, by the way, has the distinction of being in the last shot of the last Hitchcock film, Family Plot.

I can recall being told by Harris' old Second City comrade, Tony Holland, about his being phoned by one of Second Hand Hearts' producers asking him to try and talk her out of her Texas location dressing room and onto the set. For right or wrong reasons, Tony said, Harris was terrified of Blake.

Second-Hand Hearts is a film of which I am quite fond, but apparently hardly anybody else likes. Leonard Maltin calls it a bomb. But I love this little seriocomic movie about a country singer wannabe, Dinette Dusty, her bottom feeder boyfriend, Loyal Muke (Blake) and her brood of kids making their way from Texas to California for a better life. The End. It contains Blake's immortal reading of the line, "The longer it [i.e. the sunset] takes, the beautifuler it gets."

I once interviewed director Reza Badiyi for the oldddd L.A. Herald Examiner. He is a friend of Blake's and when I happened to mention how much I liked Second-Hand Hearts, he asked me:

"Oh, can I give Bobby [Blake] your phone number? I think he'd be interested in talking with you."

"Uh. . .no, I don't think so," I replied. I had no interest in trying to disabuse Blake of his loathing for the orphan film.

An internet capsule biography of Barbara Harris describes her as an actress, singer, and "religionist" (?). They might have added "brief superstar," for Barbra Streisand once said, "I am not a star. Barbara Harris is a star." Could the latter [i.e., religion] be the reason why the ex-Sandra Markowitz has fallen entirely beneath celebrity radar? She's not made a film or any other kind of professional appearance in years. The last Harris was heard from, she had moved to Phoenix and was learning how to scuffle.

And so...what I would like to propose to Blake as his first job since becoming a free man again is for him to record an audio commentary for a proposed DVD release of Second-Hand Hearts. One that would also contain a second separately recorded simultaneous track by Harris. Then, one could switch back and forth Rashoman-fashion between the two versions of the events surrounding director Hal Ashby's Waterloo as a filmmaker. And, of course, I would be the producer of the disc. But I'm afraid that only in a far, far better world than ours could a lunatic project such as this one come to pass.

If Blake needs big bucks as desperately as he claimed at his ad hoc press conference this afternoon, I'm feel reasonably certain that multi-million dollar book advance offers are winging his way even as I write this. It's a book I know I would read.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Found objet #3

Close striker before covering Posted by Hello


I espied this not too many years ago while strolling about---looking down as is my wont---near the Westbeth artist complex on New York's Lower West Side. At the time I found it, the once famous Lower East Side club, The Jazz Gallery, had been closed for at least two decades. My fantasy is that it had been tossed by Westbeth resident---and legendary jazz man and litterbug--- Gil Evans, who found the mostly used-up book of matches earlier that day, long-discarded at the back of drawer. For him, most likely it held no more mythic resonance than a "Draw this chihuahua in a teacup and win an art school scholarship" matchbook. But, ahhhhh, as for me. . .

Talk about post-bop Petite-Madelines! As I held the crud-infested thing in my hand that afternoon, my first few days in New York in the early Sixties came roaring back to me like a Linwood Dunn flashback sequence: 1989. . .1988. . .1987. . .1986. . .1985. . .1984. . . . ..

The owners of the Jazz Gallery were brothers Joe and Iggy Termini, also proprietors of the inarguably legendary NYC jazz club, The Five Spot. My first night after moving to New York City from the sticks in 1962, I made a pilgrimage to the jazz shrine to see multi-instumentalist, Roland Kirk. And that was at the site of the original Five Spot on the Bowery! Those of us who remember knocking 'em back there, at the first location, are a dwindling lot. Shortly thereafter, the place moved slightly uptown to its next and final location on New York's St. Marks Place.

The Jazz Gallery, two blocks west of the Five Spot, was opened by the Terminis in '64. I can still recall the civilility of being able to sit listening to music in a non-alcoholic peanut gallery of sorts at the place, for a very minimal fee, as long as one wanted to, totally unhustled by waiters. When it closed, not too many years after it opened, the Jazz Gallery became an off-Broadway theater (You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown), and then, a great film revival house, Theatre 80 St. Marks, where I spent as much time as I ever did at the Jazz Gallery. And where one afternoon I sat immediately behind-----the also inarguably legendary---Myrna Loy and a friend whilst they took in an afternoon William Powell double bill.

I must confess that this was one of the few times---after the movies that day---that I ever approached anyone for an autograph. The only others were Billy Wilder, veteran chacacter actor Charles Lane, and Gray Gardens' Edie Beale. Quite a curious lot you'll have to agree. And let me tell you, my friend, you haven't lived until you've sat behind Myrna at the Movies and listened to her cooing and sighing the afternoon away over her famed co-star's (Thin Man) comedy timing.

Wonder what would happen if I went and phoned Gr 79765? Think I'll give it a try right now. And if Thelonious Monk answers. . .I can be reached in the Twilight Zone.

My web site

Monday, March 14, 2005

Blind Tom Bethune

Coincident to my previous "Kronikles" post, I have begun to divest myself of some of the research materials for my 1998 book Hot from Harlem: Profiles in Classic African-American Entertainment. Up for auction on Ebay at the present time is an 1876 programme for the African-American composer Blind Tom Bethune (aka Thomas Green Wiggins). Here is the link to Ebay. My auction listing contains several pages of material on Bethune.

Subsequent to the section on Blind Tom in my book, Hot From Harlem, there have appeared a CD of his music performed by John Davis and a biography.

My web site

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Kronikles of Rejection, pt. 2

Far worse than the garden variety publisher-agent shortsightedness and apathy that greeted my Hell of a Life project was the dagger in the back of my book, Hot from Harlem: Profiles in Classic African-American Entertainment.

In 1995 I saw this labor of love of mine, a history of African-American show business scheduled for publication by a major eastern university press, cancelled at the last minute. I first learned about the quashing in a phone call from the late Dr. Beverly Robinson of UCLA, who is black and who was the main academic reader on the book. According to Robinson, the press' overwhelmingly white editorial staff had assumed I was black; then, quite by accident, learned otherwise. But I had neither masqueraded as black, nor hid that I was white in numerous phone conversations with them. Now I knew exactly how Susan Kohner felt in Imitation of Life . . .kind of . . . sort of. . ..

In fact, the press was reneging on publication, Robinson told me, out of fear of reprisal from the university's black studies department. The head of the department was a firm believer in the fashionable, new quasi-scientific doctrine known as melaninism, which posits the notion that only African-Americans are bio-psycho-sociologically equipped to write about black culture. Not since the heyday of phrenology in the 19th century has such a large body of seemingly intelligent individuals fallen for hogwash like this. Thanks to the politics of thinly veiled black payback, I was the victim of white-on-white racism! Only in America!

Part of the black studies chairman's deal with the university for taking over the department was that the school would no longer publish books on black subject matter by whites. Difficult as it is to comprehend, all of this had been written about in several academic publications with no noticeable backlash as to the unmitigated wrongness of such an agreement. As for why Dr. Robinson, who I had never met before, chose to blow the whistle on the university press, she told me in a subsequent conversation that, because my book demonstrated that a person of one race could possess the capacity to be sensitive to the culture of another, she hated to see it die. Plus, she was upset because she knew that the press was going to lie to me about the real motive behind the deep-sixing of Hot from Harlem.

Dr. Robinson informed me that I was going to be informed that the (faux) reason for canceling the book was because it was substandard. Indeed, the very next day I received a phone call to that effect from my editor. Robinson did not want me to believe this. What a great and courageous woman. And I never mentioned her name in the subsequent protracted and painful flap that arose between the press and myself. I didn't want her to become involved---though she might have been willing to do so. Thus, I only countered their lie with, "I had it on good authority. . .", etc.

I contacted longtime First Amendment columnist, Nat Hentoff, about the possibility of his writing publicly about my situation. But, at the time, he was already in enough hot water with blacks in general (and gays) without taking on the Afrocentric set; he didn't even answer my letter. The Machiavellian Mr. Hentoff and the lovely Margo (Mrs. H) choose their civic crusades wisely and well. What a pair! Since then, they've taken up the causes of Kenneth Starr and and anti-abortion. How could I have been fool enough to think I could gain any assistance from someone (Hentoff, plus his wife) who once led a campaign to try and ban men from wearing djellabas on Fire Island?

The last I heard, by the way, the head of the black studies department at the university was being charged with plagiarising his doctorate and fighting his dismissal by the school. I'm not sure who he allegedly ripped off, but wouldn't it have been a hoot if the party turned out to be white? Just a thought.

I dug my heels in, kept the $5,000 advance, and ended up publishing the book myself. It eventually sold out, and now fetches usually in excess of $100.00 a copy on those rare occasions when one becomes available on Amazon.com, bookfinder.com, etc. So I suppose I had the last laugh after all. . .kind of. . .sort of. . ..

My web site

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Harumph, snort, grumble. . .

My old friend, Mr. Still Small Voice, tells me that in connection with the recent quartet of Atlanta slayings by an oversexed mesomorph, we are going to be hearing the phrase "Grand Theft Auto" a lot over the the next few weeks.

It is perhaps true that video games such as GTA help improve the real-life reflexes of its young players. All the better for them to be able to dextrously disarm a baliff and blow away half a courtroom, I suppose. Otherwise, I can't think of a single reason to allow kids to get their hands on them. Not even the mildest games of the lot, for as our old friend Marshall McLuhan was fond of constantly reminding us, "The medium is the message."

Granted, not a controlled experiment, but I'm aware of at least three families who banned video games in their households, and in every instance the children turned out better than those in domiciles I know of where they were allowed.

"Better" is kind of a loaded phrase, Sir; could you be more specific?"

"Uh. . .No! Besides, I think you know what I mean. Better grades, etc."

My late friend Sandy Kadet was fond of saying: "Don't ask me for specifics, but anything doesn't go." i.e. The line has to be drawn somewhere. And I think I would draw mine a good deal this side of letting any adolescent in my charge play "Grand Theft Auto." If that makes me sound like Mrs. Grover Cleveland, so be it.

I fearlessly predict that if Grand Theft Auto is a factor in the trial of aforementioned Atlanta mass murderer, that the video game will at last be voluntarily withdrawn by the manufacturer. Now that the executives of the company that make GTA, and who wouldn't be (you should pardon the expression) caught dead allowing their kids to play with such gadgets, have most likely shipped their progeny off to the best private schools in the land and retired to Gstaad.
***
Yesterday morning, when for a brief period of time it looked like Michael Jackson might have taken to the high county, my good friend and constant traveling companion of the last 35 years, David Ehrenstein, said the next thing he expected to hear was a police bulletin alerting citizenry to: "Be on the lookout for Liz Taylor driving a white Bronco."

A bench warrant was even readied for MJJ's arrest. To my way of thinking, as of now---what with all the recent staff defections at Neverland Ranch---jail just might the only way Michael can be guaranteed three squares a day.

Freaky Deaky finally showed up in court just in the nick of time, wearing. . .Sponge Bob Square Pants pajamas! Someone please tell me this is ALL just a bad Motown nightmare on my part. Something I et, mayhaps?
***
"Good German" copout: Please note that when Google web crawlers scan this entry and begin placing ads for GTA at the bottom of this page, it represents no endorsement on my part. Out of my hands.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Cat blog Friday #6

Kuro thinking? Posted by Hello


Though I am fully aware that my beloved Kuro has the intellectual capacity of a bag of groceries, sometimes the looks that cross his face seem to indicate otherwise (like here). But I know that's not case. Yesterday, for example, he got a claw attached to a shoe lace which was, in turn, attached to a shoe. He procceded to mentally transmogrify the shoe into a beast that was chasing him, and then began to dash about the house hysterically, as fast as any other known land animal, knocking over lamps and various other objects, dragging the shoe along behind him. Duh!

I finally was able to corner him, calm him down and detach the shoestring (think Androcles and the Lion). Poor baby! So frightened that he was almost unable to enjoy his regular 7:30 pm "fix" of bonito, parcelled out to him by yours truly, Bill, the Enabler.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

You say "ugly," I say "uggeelie."

Mimi Hines in "Funny Girl" Posted by Hello


For a brief spell, I thought I had imagined an entire sitcom. It began yesterday when my friend Jay, whose first language is not English, asked me about a possible less blunt synonym for the word "ugly" as a physical attribute. My initial answer was "homely." Upon reflection, however, I decided that in this anti-lookist era, even homely would not pass muster, but the best I could come up with was "plain."

It was "ugly" that set me off and triggered the word "uggeelie," (sic) to begin richocheting about the hallways of the windmills of my mind. Hmmmm? Uggeelie. . .uggeelie?

And then, it all came rushing back to me like, well, a bad dream: a single episode of a situation comedy that I'd seen on TV at least twenty years ago, as part of what I like to call "Unsold Pilot Playhouse." Back in the good old days when the networks actually telecast pilot episodes, ones that weren't being picked up, as summer replacements. I thought I even recalled one of the stars, divine singer-comedienne Mimi Hines.

For those of you too young to remember, or else too unsophisticated to care, Hines was the central figure of one of the great moments of early live TV. I can still recall viewing Mimi and her famous turn on the Jack Paar Show in 1958. A classic case of someone walking onstage an unknown. . . and off four minutes later, A STAR. Paar intro'd her---a totally unheard of quantity; she sang "Till There Was You," from The Music Man whilst her husband Phil Ford accompanied her on clarinet in the background. And the audience went bananas.

Paar began crying after Hines' turn (not so unusual) and as I seem to recall, Mimi and Phil were invited back the next night and the next and the next. . .. It really was something to behold. The cathode ray equivalent of an old Ruby Keeler "Gold Diggers" movie where "Peggy Sawyer" goes out "a chorus girl and comes back a star." Hines really cut through that old fourth wall of the TV screen and leapt right into your living room. And she was no one hit wonder.

In 1965, she replaced Barbra Streisand in the Broadway run of Funny Girl, essentially receiving reviews equal to (some say better than) Babs. And Hines continues to tour and perform: March 29 – April 2 (my birthday) she will be appearing at the toney NYC boite, Feinstein's. But, as is my wont, I digress.

The sitcom in question was called The Uggeelies (not quite certain of that spelling). Get it? The Uglys. In a sort of twist on the Beverly Hillbillies, an entire family of NPA's (to use the onetime code of the Academy Players Directory , i.e. Not Physically Attractive) become uprooted from somewhere in the great heartland and are dropped down in the middle of Beverly Hills and have to cope with not being Beautiful. Not just unsophisticated. But two-bagger ugly. Honest! That was the premise.

Using her pronounced overbite for all it was worth, Hines played up her penchant for looking wacky and ungainly; the kids, as I seem to recall, were nerds, the husband was a dork, etc. I am fairly certain that I'm not misremembering this. Or am I?

The only joke---if that's what it was---that I can still recall was when someone would address Hines as "Mrs. Ugly," she would testily reply, "That's Uggeelie. . .Uggeelie." Can you believe it? Not since the glory days of the Algonquin Round Table! I feel reasonably certain that Hines couldn't believe it, either. But, Hey! a girl's gotta eat.

Still I continued to wonder: Could I possibly have imagined this ghastly parable for our times, i.e. people too ugly to be allowed to live in the Hills of Beverly? Back then, I was still heavy into. . .welllll, never mind.

First, I checked the excellent little book Unsold TV Pilots by Lee Goldberg, but came up with nothing. Next I Googled every possible misspelled permutation of "Ugly" + "Mimi Hines." But, again. . .zip, nada. The Uggeelies appears to be entirely beneath Google radar.

Fortunately, it was at this juncture that I recalled having a slight e-mail acquaintance with an associate of Hines. I wrote him at once: "Was Mimi Hines ever in such a series?," I asked, adding, "And please don't misunderstand me, Mimi Hines is a very attractive woman, but if the occasion calls for it. . .. Meaning that her middle name might just as well be "Anything For a Laugh" (see accompanying photo).

As if to, at least for the moment, restore my faith in the e-mail process (and my sense of sanity), he answered back almost immediately to the effect that yes, Mimi Hines had been in just such a series, and even volunteered that one of her co-stars had been Carol Burnett's TV foil Lyle Waggoner. (Hmmm. Can't recall how the rather hunky Lyle fit in there.) And that's about all he knew. But what I would still like to know is this: Does anyone else remember The Uggeelies, and if so, can they supply me with the name of the "creator" of the series? I tell you, if I had a mind that sick, I could die happy.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Beach Boys:

Their Big Changeover to Heavy Kid Music and What It Really Means (Soon Magazine - 1974)

by Georgie Brocade (Randal High) & Michael Drink (Bill Reed)

Introduction

G: You need to know the context which is that Michael and I are at least part time rock fan writers whose specialty (together) is the Beach Boys. We've both been into them for years and years. And we're both entering our 30's. Age is important here because Michael and I and the Beach Boys are all 30, and we have the same ears. Ideally age shouldn't matter but it does because something happens as you mellow out gracefully (age), namely you get crafty about conserving energy. Agewise, also there is now a generation gap within the alternate culture. I hate to use those ugly terms but it's true. It has to do with how accumulated experience was ordered. Musically, if you're thirty, you grew up before records were carefully crafted by machines. Growing up in the forties the radio played such awful simple singles--- a singer with a band---and the lyric contest was nil. But mainly it was nearly live. No overdubbing or sweetening. It went back to the tradition of parlor singing in the days before radio. It's still around. Dinah Shore and Perry Como are thus explained: it's parlor right in your own living room and it's not important for the music to be high-powered. Parlor is polite and everybody does a turn no matter how clumsy and all is forgiven. Dean Martin holding a drink in his hand does it and doesn't know it. (Parlor is revived, thank god, by kids sitting around with guitars.) After that, music wasn't parlor but talentshow. With talentshow if you didn't have it you just gave up and didn't make any music. Talentshow explains Barbra Streisand and Liza Minnelli. But don't forget parlor and singing and playing right there in your own living room, except Kate Smith who was somewhere between parlor and concerthall. And Liberace somewhere between concerthall and a DREAM. In the early fifties, just before rock, there came a big change. Patti Page and Les Paul and Mary Ford overdubbing. Patti Page single-handedly moved 45s from parlor to an item on the juke box. Wasn't there even an explicit song about this, "Jukebox Saturday Night" ?

M: And don't forget Gale Storm's “Love By The Juke Box Light” even though it doesn't help extend your ontological exegesis of pop music evolution. By the way, Georgie, the recent Beach Boys concert we went to together at Carnegie Hall was way too loud and muddy-sounding. Now I understand what kind of tsuris I put my family through in the fifties when I cranked my record player up to “11” playing Little Richard and Chuck Berry. I am, happy however, with the recorded symmetry of “Good Vibration” and “Please Let Me Wonder.” The Carnegie set, though, was almost enough to make me want to return to the relatively duddy Ms. Joni James and her 1954 hit “Purple Shades” (as opposed to “Purple Haze”).

G: Also, thank god, on the fifties juke box was Sarah Vaughan who secretly let you know about healing waters and magic oils and nether regions of one's body---in a word, black music, which moved in with the arrival of rock, rhythm n' blues, rock and roll. So this is the context of me, Michael and the Beach Boys. I love the BB's music shamelessly and all-forgivingly because of the beautiful studio crafting, and because of the angelic voices, clean and innocent. I love to count the tracks. I love to decipher the maze of fifty-part har-mo-nee.

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Monday, March 07, 2005

Confessions of Randal High

Randal Pepsi tippin' Posted by Hello


Like Courtney Love and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, you could not imagine a more unlikely twosome than Protestant whitebread-looking, button-down me and Randal High, a harmless madman, and a pluperfect textbook example of a PK, i.e. preacher's kid. Nevertheless, he was my running buddy throughout most of my teens and early twenties, i.e. the Sixties.

Remind me someday me to tell you about the time Randal dropped a buck into a redneck Southern jukebox and played a song by jazz singer Gloria Lynne ten times in a row, when all that the good old boys wanted to hear was LORETTA Lynn. After about the third spin, the bartendress yelled out, "Who played that crappy thing?" To which Randal replied, "Shut your crappy mouth!" Then the fun reallly began.

If Life Magazine paid me to write about "The Most Unforgettable Character I've Ever Met," it would definitely be Randal. Except there's no way you could possibly print much of it in a family mag. However, there's a great deal about him in my 2000 memoir Early Plastic.

But Early Plastic wasn't my first self-publishing venture. In 1974, I put out one issue of a 'little mag" entitled Soon. I had started on a second issue of the thing, but the mimeo machine broke down, then we moved to California, and then, and then. . .. The second issue was to have been an all-Spike Jones number. (If anyone's interested in publishing it, I still have the complete manuscript.) Soon number one's contributors list included: Richard Meltzer (a long essay on Pud bubblegum comics); and film crit (and my gf&ctc for the last 30-some years) David Ehrenstein (an essay on Frankenstein). I paid Meltzer with an Elvis Sun 78.

Back then, Meltzer was still writing as "R. Meltzer." That's the name he signed to his now-famous book, Aesthetics of Rock. Randal High's contributions to Soon were two-fold. Under the pseudonyms of Georgie Brocade and Michael Drink (I was the latter) he and I wrote a dialogue entitled "The Beach Boys: Their Big Changeover to Heavy Kid Music and What It Really Means."

Also, I cobbled together the best of letters he had been sending from the backwoods somewhere in North Carolina. He'd retreated there and was living on his PK "remittance money." His goal was to try and bond with the locals, or to start an organic farm, or some such hippy-dippy nonsense. But mostly what he did was to cause a lot of local ruckus, fuss and dustup.

A self-styled writer, I seem to recall that Randal had exactly one piece published. . .a brief review of Van Dyke Parks in Cream mag. Thus, his description of himself in what follows as: "a hotshit rock critic." I've not been in touch with Randal for a long time. The last I heard---about twenty years ago---he was living in Kentucky and had got himself into a jam of such proportions that even HE couldn't possibly have extricated himself.

Here's a brief section from "The Confessions of Randal High."

"All summer long, 2 musicians, Leo and Leo (cusp-Scorpio) have been visiting the house up the mountain from me. When I'm out working in my garden, I can look up the hill and see them on their front porch playin' guitar and singing. Even a distance away I can tell they are real good. . . .More

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Eubie Blake diet?

If the great composer-pianist, Eubie Blake, were still alive he would be 122. He just might have brought it off. As things stand, living to five days past his 100th birthday on Feb. 7, 1983, he didn't fare so badly in the longevity department. An especially stupendous achievement considering that Blake's daily regimen consisted almost exclusively of 7-Up, whiskey, meat, chocolate and cigarettes. And he was performing almost right up to the end of his life.

Blake's centennial accomplishment is doubly fascinating when you factor in that his mother had ten (!) stillborn babies, or infants who died shortly after birth, before Eubie, a frail but nonetheless healthy baby boy, was born. I've always marveled at how long and hard his mother, Emily, labored to bring genius into the world.

Eubie, himself, felt that his basically illness-free existence was, at least in part, the result of running a very low body temperature. . .somewhere around 96 degrees. Claimed a doctor once told him that it was hard for diseases, germs, and viruses, genetically engineered to flourish at 98.6, to take up lodging in so much cooler and inhospitable a corporial climate. My normal body temperature is also very low, and I've seldom been sick with even so much as a bad cold. So maybe there's a bit of truth to Eubie's medical theories.

He might have also chalked up lasting so long to his almost lifelong refusal to fly. That might have slightly improved his actuarial (no pun intended) chances for survival. “I’ve never been on a plane and never expect to unless I’m handcuffed to a sheriff," he once said. "But, after ninety years on the ground or at sea," according to an internet biography by Dr. Karl Koenig, "Eubie at last took to the air. On May 19, 1973, Eubie made his initial flight to Buffalo, New York, to make some piano rolls. Having conquered his fears, this flight would lead to many others."

One of Blake's more peripheral but nonetheless interesting achievements was having been, along with partner Noble Sissle, among the first of his race to perform on the stage wearing a tuxedo. If not in fact THE first---as he claimed---he was inarguably among the vanguard of newly dignified and empowered African-American entertainers to cast aside the degrading vertiginae (is that a word?) of American minstrelsy. He also appeared, along with Sissle, in a test of talkies made several years before the much more widely vaunted The Jazz Singer. Both men were clad in formal evening attire in the short film.

Not long before Eubie died, I caught him being interviewed on the Today Show. He seemed a bit slow on the uptake, but nonetheless most compos mentis. He was aware of the fact that he was not quite up to speed; for at one point in the dialogue, he interrupted the host (Tom Brokaw?), saying: "Please bear with me. It's all still in there. It just takes a little bit longer to get it out."

I was, am now and always will be Just Wild About Eubie!

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Found Objet

Excavated 3/5/05 Oblivion Towers USA Posted by Hello


Mr. Horace T. Frogge
Station KDVL
"The Voice of Silent Gospel"
Fresno, Calif.

April 6

Dear Horace,

Heres the list you wanted of the boys to send the free cheese spears and the salami wheels to. You will remember that these is those same boys in the band of "Red Greenbacks and His Blue Boys" which was kind enough to appear free on your telethon last Saturday A.M. (Right at the time when it got real confusing!) The songs called "C'mon Jesus," "Switchblade Pitchforks," "The Bad News," and "Square Dance" was all written by a boy from your own town named Phil Austin (who has promised to use them to record in Hollywood soon. We plan to hold him to it, and you too so BEWARE!) No, seriously, Hor, I'm just kidding, but Look Out, if you know what I mean. Send that stuff along. Heres the list:

Vocal: Phil Austin
Bass: Charles Larkey
Drums, Washboard: Joe Vaccaro
Piano: Skip Edwards
Steel Guitar, Acoustic and Electric Guitars, Banjo: Donald Beck
Accordian: Pete Jolley
Fiddle: Bobby Bruce
Background vocals: Oona Elliott, Lesley Gore.
Arranged: Norman Kurban
Produced: Michael Sunday
Engineered, at the Record Plant in Hollywood, by Michael Stone
(All songs Gibbous Music, ASCAP)

So lets go, turkey. Were waitin and were bound to get a job near Fresburg soon in Pinedale or Chowchilla and well all come over and well, you know what I mean, I was the guy in the plastic suit in the parking lot, remember? (Look out!)

Yours,
Manny Thephato
Manager of the band, "Red Greenbacks and His Blue Boys."

Friday, March 04, 2005

Frankly, I'd rather eat lobster at a truckstop. . .

I've been told by my good friend and constant traveling companion David Ehrenstein that certain of the sentiments in my recent blog entry, "We wuz robbed," place me in the vanguard of film critics no less esteemed than James Agee and Jean-Luc Godard. It seems that both have gone on record as approving the idea of reviewing a film without ever having seen it. According to Godard: "It's easier." To wit:

In my anti-review "We wuz robbed," I weighed in as to why I had no interest whatsoever in seeing Million Dollar Baby:

1. Because of Swank's big scary teeth.
2. Her laughable West Virginia accent (I should know; that's where I'm from.)
3. The retrograde melodramatic plot (I've seen enough clips on TV to know),
4. AND my total lack of interest in taking in a movie about, as I previously wrote, "women beating the crap out of one another?"

I'm also aware of the flap surrounding the finale of the film wherein (spoiler alert) Swank's badly injured character opts to die rather than face life as a paraplegic.

Now, word gets back to me that there is yet another scene in the film that is perhaps also ripe for a bit of controversy. . .maybe after the euthanasia brouhaha dies (pun UNintended) down.

Apparently Swank's "Maggie Fitzgerald" (still can't get over that hokey '30s Warner Bros. moniker) wants to buy her family a house with some of her boxing income, but the folks are having none of it. You see, if they owned property they'd have to go off welfare, and they're much happier remaining the happy, bottom feeder, hillbilly swill that they are. . .thank you very much. Seems to me that gives away bigtime Eastwood's somewhat soft-pedalled, but neverthesless reactionary politics. I don't whether many film critics have picked up on this, but it seems a salient point, one that I'm writing about herein without---again---ever even having seen MBB. Folks back in West Virginia, not to mention welfare proponents in general, are right touchy about that sort of stuff.

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Funny/Sad

Posted by Hello

Bert Williams, died on this day in 1922 at age 46. Williams was not just historically the first African-American star, but in his heyday of the century's second decade, an uppermost figure on Broadway who worked with and ranked alongside the likes of Eva Tanguay, Irene Franklin, Bert Leslie, Ed Wynn, Leon Errol. On August 15, 1900, a major race riot erupted in New York City over a black man who had accidentally killed a white attacker of his wife. At the height of the riot the cry went out to "get" Bert Williams, along with a handful of other prominent black performers of the day, including Williams' partner George Walker. Writes James Weldon Johnson in his Black Manhattan, "These seemed to be the only individual names the crowd was familiar with. " Williams survived physically unscathed, but due to the color of his skin the seemingly sure cure of fame had failed to protect him. The incident is said to have haunted him for the remaining twenty-two years of his life. Williams was, in the words of W.C. Fields: "The funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew."

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cat Blog Friday #5

Posted by Hello


Kuro and Daffy

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Do I know you?

My friend and blogist extraordinaire, Jan Herman, emailed earlier today to call my attention to a little dustup that has happened as a result of something he wrote recently at artsjournal.com :

It seems that slightly-to-the-right-of-Atilla-the-Hun "Weekly Standard" columnist Stephen Schwartz's decidedly different ideological past has come back to haunt and bite him in the ass---thanks to Jan's excellent long term memory. One that extends back to his clerking days (circa '66) at San Francisco's legendary City Lights Bookstore.

You can read all about it at Gawker .

I suppose it could happen to anyone; just look at John Dos Pasos. And my---al caps---EX-FRIEND, Lawrence Jarvik. One minute he was a self-described Trotskyist making documentaries about subjects like the failure of American Jewry to come to the aid of their brethren living in Nazi Germany. The next, he was a pod-like, right wing scourge of NPR and PBS, and most other things that even remotely smacked of garden variety liberalism. Without even any noticeable transitional stops in between. I tell you. . .it gave me whiplash. I suppose the moral is Be ever Vigilant. Be vewwwy vewwwy Vigilant!

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Memories of Michael



Second day of Michael Jackson trial.

Way back in mid-sixties, there were rumors that the mob shot Michael up with hormones to keep his voice preternaturally high. True
or not. . .it never seemed like a pretty picture behind the scenes.

In the early seventies, I remember watching a low-rent L.A. cable show hosted by singer Chuck Jackson. One episode featured an interview with Michael taped in the back of a moving limo hereabouts in this city where the future comes to die. Chuck musta really pulled strings. Even then, MJ didn't seem to be "all there." The hormones?

Somewhere in the early eighties I watched Michael on an afternoon talk-panel show where the other guest was Fred Astaire. He got all sychophantic with Fred, who was absolutely having none of it. Jackson wanted to know how Astaire danced on the ceiling in Royal Wedding. Fred kind of went sniff sniff and turned his head in the other direction as Jackson fawned on and on, then finally caught Astaire's drift and shut up. Racism? Nahhh! More likely a class thang.

Then there was the time my friend Randal High phoned me around '68 while a Jackson Family special was being televised. He called from North Carolina to NYC, where I was living then, just so he could get me to turn the show on and hit me with a one-liner: "As if any further proof were needed that we really are a nation of pederasts, just take a look at this kid." Ho ho ho hee hee hee ha ha ha. Alas, eventually Michael's shoe apparently (make that allegedly) got shifted to the other foot.

What a ghoulish and sad life. Has anyone ever fallen so vertiginously from such a high plateau of public adoration? It might be lonely at the top but it's crowded at the bottom, as someone (?) remarked somewhere (?) the other day. And even more so in stir. "Do I have to tell you one more time, bitch? Do the moonwalk!"

Even before the trial began yesterday, you just know all manner of contingency plans are being made on the offchance. . .. Just how do you go about deaccessing a menagerie? Ads for "slightly used" giraffes and elephants in the Santa Barbara Penny Saver? And trying to figure out who he'll stay with when and if he ever gets out. Probably not the folks, for obvious reasons. Liz? Well, she's been under the weather lately. Janet? Jermaine? Tito? Dibs are most likely already being taken on who'll get the exclusive post-prison TV interview. Babawawa? Prolly not. . . again, for obvious thanatopsical reasons. Oprah? Maybe. Though, she recently announced plans to quit in ten more years.

Here's what the recently departed Dr. HST has to say on the subject doing the deed with kiddies:

"The difference between an outlaw and a criminal is the difference between a pedophile and a Pederast: The pedophile is a person who thinks about sexual behavior with children, and the Pederast does these things. He lays hands on innocent children---he pentrates them and changes their lives forever. Being the object of a pedophile's warped affections is a Routine feature of growing up in America---and being a victim of a Pederast's crazed "love" is part of dying."

I almost feel sorry for Michael Jackson and his current Lear-like dillema , but obviously. . .not quite.

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